Thursday, 25 February 2021

Trust Between Authors and Audience

This post has spoilers for Wandavision.

I've found myself thinking a lot lately about the trust that exists between authors and their audience, whether they write books, TV, or movies.

There are some authors that I will trust to take me to hell and back.  No matter how dark the story is and how impossible it seems, I know there is a point to the bad stuff and it will be worth it in the end.  Gena Showalter, Jenna Black, and J. Michael Strazynski are a few of the examples that immediately spring to mind.

Then there are other authors who seem to insist on making their characters suffer for no reason other than to glory in their pain (cough - Ronald D. Moore - cough).  It won't take much for me to bail out of their stories because I no longer trust them to see me through to the other side.

This ties in with genre expectations, but goes beyond them as well.  Yes, if I'm reading something marketed as a mystery, I expect the murder to be solved.  If I'm reading a book marketed as a romance, I expect there to be a central love story and a happy ending.  If I'm watching a movie marketed as a disaster action film, I expect the tornado footage to last more than two minutes total (yes, that's a specific example - Into The Storm, I don't recommend it).

I started thinking about this as I've been watching
Wandavision.  After the fourth episode, I was tempted to bail, even though I'd really been enjoying the writing and the chemistry between Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda) and Paul Bettany (Vision).  As a comic geek, I know that Wanda, aka The Scarlet Witch, is usually a villain.  I didn't want to watch another five episodes of her descending into grief and losing everything all over.  I didn't want to watch her be broken and become one of the bad guys.  That's not a story that I want to have inside my head.

I really loved the relationship between Wanda and Vision in the MCU movies.  I **hated** that they killed him off in Infinity War and that he didn't get to come back in Endgame.  But I wasn't surprised.  It's the one part of comics that I dislike: relationships almost always end in misery.  And for a genre that constantly brings characters back from the dead, their inability to imagine people being both in love and in exciting adventures is kind of disappointing.

I didn't want to watch Wanda's heart break all over again, but I stuck with it.  Because the MCU has delivered on its promise to tell nuanced stories where characters may go through bad times, but they don't suffer unnecessarily.  Heroes might be tempted down a dark path but they don't stay there.

This week's episode (7) proved I was right to trust them.  She's not the villain.  She's not broken.  And it's a relief that's renewed my excitement for the rest of the series.

Stories need tension to be interesting.  Some stories have light tension with low stakes and they can be quite enjoyable.  Some stories have a lot of tension with very high stakes and that is where trust in the author becomes essential.

Just putting characters in horrible situation creates tension, but it's the way they get out of it that makes a story satisfying.  Making horrible things happen to them just to have them in pain, that's not satisfying.  Or at least, not to me.

And that's why, while my stories deal with dark subject matter such as assault, trauma, addiction, and prejudice, they are there because I want to show people coming out of that darkness.  I want to show that those things don't preclude finding love and happiness in life later on.  There's a reason, and there's a satisfying outcome.  That's why my readers know they can trust me.

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Reclaiming My HEA: New Plan

 Reclaiming My HEA is a monthly feature where I share my progress through my separation and divorce.  It also includes snippets of a therapy exercise where I imagine myself in a healthy relationship.  The purpose is to remind myself of what a supportive, caring partner would be like, to try and offset the effects of over a decade without one.

Dating sites take awhile, especially when we're still in the middle of a pandemic, which makes physically meeting new people difficult.  I'm still moving ahead, but I'm also trying to take a more comprehensive approach.

After some careful self-reflection, I've realized that one of the reasons that I've been so uncomfortable with moving forward is because I'm afraid of failing to recognize the signs of another bad relationship.  I'm working on that, but I also decided to tackle one of the underlying causes: touch deprivation.

In the 1960's, an
experiment with baby monkeys showed how crucial touch can be.  It is just as critical as the need for food.  One of the issues with my former relationship was a complete lack of physical contact.  As this pandemic has carried on, I've been unable to meet up with friends which has meant no hugs or other contact.  I've always been a cuddly person and I think that deprivation has affected me more than I realized.

One of the things I've been thinking about for the past year is whether or not I wanted to get myself a pet of my own.  My boys each have a pet.  The 16yo has a service dog, Lynyrd, and the 13yo has a cat, Neelix.  Both pets enjoy being around their people but aren't really cuddlers.  This suits the boys perfectly, since they aren't cuddlers either.

But I am.  And I'd love to have a pet to cuddle with.  I think it might help me more than I realize.

So I've decided to pursue adopting/rescuing a cat of my own.  It will have to be a young cat, in order for it to adapt to the household.

Maybe this will be the first step toward becoming a crazy cat lady... or maybe it's going to be the start of a path that will lead to me being happier.  Only time will tell.

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Monday, 8 February 2021

Valentine's Day Special - Part Two (HEA Match)

 Time for part 2 of my Valentine's Day special.  Everyone has an HEA match!

Honestly, this is why I love writing romance.  I love helping people to find their happiness, even fictional people.  (Maybe especially fictional people, since its so much easier than the real life versions.)

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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Valentine's Day Special - Part One (HEA Match)

 With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought it would be fun to do a special dating app post for my characters.  Who would be your HEA hottie?

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Thursday, 21 January 2021

Things I Love: January 2021

This year has been so difficult and finding joy has been a challenge, so here's some fun stuff that's made my life livable.


I've been reading more non-fiction than fiction this month.  It's something that tends to happen in waves, especially if I find something that intrigues me.  And these two books definitely got me thinking.

The Secret Poisoner: A Century of Murder by Linda Stratmann

I promise I haven't taken up a new hobby.  This book is all about the development of toxicology detection between 1800-1900.  It was a fascinating look at a variety of cases and trial and experimentation to reliably detect poison residue after death.  Two things I learned especially stuck with me.  One, pharmacists and grocers use to be able to dispense "quieteners" over the counter, an opium-based solution that was explicitly marketed as a way for wives to sedate their belligerent and abusive husbands.  Two, the number of doctors who suspected that their patients were being slowly poisoned and didn't say anything to the patients in question is appallingly high.

On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane by Emily Guendelsberger

Guendelsberger went undercover at McDonalds, Convergys and Amazon and while I knew those companies didn't treat their employees well, I was shocked to learn how bad it actually is.  It was disheartening to learn how many of these corporations rely on high levels of turnover to keep salary costs down.  It starts with a historical look at Ford's assembly line, which paid far more than the standard day's wage but was considered de-humanizing and discouraging.

TV Shows:

Sleepy Hollow.  I started rewatching this a few weeks ago.  The story-telling is a little uneven but the chemistry between Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie is amazing.  I'll admit that the first time I watched the show, I was hoping that they would develop a romantic relationship.  But on this watch, I'm really appreciating the depiction of a strong friendship between a man and woman.  I like fish out of water stories so I enjoy watching Ichabod's reaction to modern society.

Star Trek: Discovery
, season 3 (spoilers).  I love Star Trek and I've always thought that the series worked best when it was looking forward, so I'm very much enjoying the season 3 switch to 700 years in the future.  I love the new character, Booker, and his relationship with Michael.  And of course, my girl Tilly is having an awesome season.

All Rise.  I discovered this show last year and it's become a new favourite.  I enjoy legal dramas and was excited to see one from the judge's perspective.  The cast is amazing and the dialogue is witty.  The second season is set during the pandemic and I think the show has handled it rather well.

Fictional Crushes:

I'm still loyal to the Mandalorian and Ghost Rider, but I can't watch Sleepy Hollow without being reminded of how undeniably hot Tom Mison is, especially with long hair and the beard.  He's courteous and a gentleman, smart and loyal.  And the man can rock a frock coat.  I like how he respects his partner's expertise and skills, but is still protective of her.

I also had a refresher of another cinnamon roll hero, Aram from The Blacklist, played by Amir Arison.  He's kind and sweet, a man who sees the best in people.  Add in the fact that he's a passionate defender and protector, and he's just the kind of hero that I adore.


I've been listening to my burlesque playlist a lot.  Most of the songs are from the movie Burlesque, but I added in some other classics like "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" and "Candyman."  I like the boldness and confidence of burlesque songs, but my favourites are the ones that include humour, like "A Guy What Takes His Time" and "I am a Good Girl."

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Thursday, 14 January 2021

Reclaiming My HEA: I Have A Heart and a Brain, Now I Need Courage

Reclaiming My HEA is a monthly feature where I share my progress through my separation and divorce.  It also includes snippets of a therapy exercise where I imagine myself in a healthy relationship.  The purpose is to remind myself of what a supportive, caring partner would be like, to try and offset the effects of over a decade without one.

I don't like rejection.  Yeah, I know, it's a complete shocker.  No one likes rejection.  But that fear has been holding me back for a very long time and it's time for me to face it.  In short, I've already gotten my heart and my brain, which means it's time for me to wizard up some courage.  (Possibly cute braids and an innocent yet sultry singing voice as well, but those are more optional.)

I'm a GenXer, which means I'm very comfortable with jaded nonchalance and self-deprecating jabs.  But I am also a geek, which means I couldn't maintain a cool facade if my life depended on it.  By nature, I'm bouncy, excited and eager to share.  And over the years, my exuberance has been slapped down many times as "too much" for the people I was with.  I get caught between the necessity of being myself and the desire not to drive people away with who I am.

Yet, the thing is that who I am isn't bad.  I'm not claiming to be flawless or unproblematic, but as I try to untangle the negative messages of a lifetime, I'm realizing that I'm also not difficult or demanding.  I'm not "too much" for the world, just too much for some of the people in it.  And that's about them.  Not about me.

However, that's easier said that believed sometimes.  Especially when I'm taking the plunge of signing up for a dating app.

As I'm filling out the initial forms, all I'm finding myself thinking is about how the whole online dating process feels like setting myself up for a lot of rejection.  I don't really want to open myself up to a whole new crowd of people who will tell me that I'm "too much."

And yet, that's the price of admission.  If I want to find someone who thinks I'm exactly right just as I am, then I need to be strong enough to face the rejections.

This month's HEA writing exercise is based on a favourite scene of mine from the 1997 movie Fools Rush In, where the hero comes in to find the heroine preparing dinner.  While she cooks, she's dancing around the kitchen and he pauses to watch her, entranced by her exuberance and passion.

I dance a lot.  I'm usually the first one on and the last one off any dance floor.  I dance when I'm doing chores and sometimes just because I feel like it.  According to home movies, I've been doing it since I could barely walk.  But I've never had a romantic partner who treated it as anything except a joke.

Here is this month's snippet:

   The weekend getaway had seemed like the perfect idea.  A rare opportunity to relax without the pressures of their day to day life.  It would have all been much more effective if his business partner hadn't spent the last two hours bombarding him with emails and phone calls.  The excessive barrage had required him to descend into the hotel's business centre instead of spending the evening with his partner.

   Crisis finally resolved well after midnight, he returned to the suite, expecting to find his love sleeping or lost in a book.  Instead, as he slipped through the door, he heard the muted thump of dance music.  He stopped just inside the entrance, a shy smile curving his lips.

   He treasured these glimpses of the free spirit that still thrived in her.  Her life had been hard, far more difficult than it should have been, but it somehow hadn't crushed her.

   She spun and saw him watching her.  Instantly she slowed, uncertainty freezing the smile on her face.  He smiled at her, reassuring her that there would be no mockery or dismissal.  He held out his hand, inviting her to dance into his arms.

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